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Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets: A Restoration of the Runes
by Roy Neil Graves, Professor of English
The University of Tennessee at Martin

Set VIII, Runes 99-112: Texts and Comments
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

             
Proceed to Rune 105
Return to the Index of Set VIII

Rune 104A,
Sixth lines in Set VIII (Sonnets 99-112)
Rune 104B, Seventh line in Sonnet 99
and Sixth lines in Sonnets 100-112

                      Rune 104A

     (Sixth lines, Set VIII: Sonnets 99-112)

     The lily I condemnèd for thy hand—
     In gentle numbers time so idly spent!
     Truth needs no color with his color fixed,
 4  When I was wont to greet it with my lace.
     Look in your glass, and there appears a face
     In process of the seasons have I seen,
     Still constant in a wondrous excellence
 8  Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow—
     And the sad augurs mock their own presage.
     I must each day say o’er the very same.
     Like him that travels, I return again,
12 Askance and strangely, but by all above;
     And, almost thence, my nature is subdued
     To know my shames and praises from your tongue.
__________
     Glosses: 2) numbers = metrics, verses; time plays on “rhythm”; 3) color puns on collar, choler (i.e., ire); 4) wont = accustomed; greet may mean assail (ME); lace (Q laies): also, lays, i.e., songs; 5) face = countenance (see 8); 6) In process puns “In th’ [p = th, archaic thorn] row [i.e., line or verse], see s’s”: the line has six of them; 6-7) Q’s seasons haue I seene / S... puns, “see Avon’s [long s = f eyepun] house, Annie S.”; 9) augurs = predictions; presage = prediction; 12) Askance = Obliquely; by all above suggests “transcendent, guided by heaven”; 13) subdued puns on “subdivided” (as Q is divided into Sonnets and Runes); 14) shames and praises are metaphoric epithets for Q’s Runes and Sonnets.

                       Rune 104B

(Seventh line, Sonnet 99, + Sixth lines, Sonnets 100-112)

     “And buds of marjoram had stol’n thy hair….”
     In gentle numbers time so idly spent!
     Truth needs no color with his color fixed,
 4  When I was wont to greet it with my lace.
     Look in your glass, and there appears a face
     In process of the seasons have I seen,
     Still constant in a wondrous excellence
 8  Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow—
     And the sad augurs mock their own presage.
     I must each day say o’er the very same.
     Like him that travels, I return again,
12 Askance and strangely, but by all above;
     And, almost thence, my nature is subdued
     To know my shames and praises from your tongue.
__________
     Glosses: 1) marjoram is an aromatic herb; 2) gentle puns on genital (and 1 may mean pubic hair); numbers = metrics, verses; time plays on “rhythm”; 3) color puns on collar, choler (i.e., ire); 4) wont = accustomed; greet may mean assail (ME); lace (Q laies): also, lays, i.e., songs; 5) face = countenance (see 8); 6) In process puns “In th’ [p = th, archaic thorn] row [i.e., line or verse], see s’s”: the line has six of them; 6-7) Q’s seasons haue I seene / S... puns, “see Avon’s [long s = f eyepun] house, Annie S.”; 9) augurs = predictions; presage = prediction; 12) Askance = Obliquely; by all above suggests “transcendent, guided by heaven”; 13) subdued puns on “subdivided” (as Q is divided into Sonnets and Runes); 14) shames and praises are metaphoric epithets for Q’s Runes and Sonnets.


     104A. A Wondrous Excellence (I)

     I plucked (and thus killed) a lily to put in your hand—
     spending time so idly making genteel verses!
     Truth needs no added decoration,
  4 while I’ve customarily assailed it with lyrics in a decorated style.
     Look in your mirror, whatever the season, and there a countenance appears
     that I have watched through the passing of the years
     always constant for its amazing excellence
  8 of limb, feature, and mind,
     so that pessimistic predictions about you prove themselves false.
     Every day I have to say the same thing over and over.
     Like a traveler, I come back to where I began,
12 indirectly and mysteriously, but transcendent, guided by your perfection—or by heaven—
     and, almost there, I’m humbled and quiet
     hearing you say what you find bad and good in me.


     104B. A Wondrous Excellence (II)

     “And buds of marjoram had stol’n thy hair….”
     How idly I spend my time making delicate verse!
     Truth needs no added decoration,
  4 while I’ve customarily assailed it with lyrics in a decorated style.
     Look in your mirror, whatever the season, and there a countenance appears
     that I have watched through the passing of the years
     always constant for its amazing excellence
  8 of limb, feature, and mind,
     so that pessimistic predictions about you prove themselves false.
     Every day I have to say the same thing over and over.
     Like a traveler, I come back to where I began,
12 indirectly and mysteriously, but transcendent, guided by your perfection—or by heaven—
     and, almost there, I’m humbled and quiet
     hearing you say what you find bad and good in me.


Comments: 104A

         This self-effacing apostrophe praises the muse and purports to find fancy poetic technique unneeded and ineffective. “Lily” as shorthand for “gentle numbers” and a decorated, lacy style (1-4) probably points to John Lyly’s euphuistic manner, which Will elsewhere parodies (cf. 1 Henry IV 2.4.440ff.).

         Figures about writing link with a dominant metaphor of travel (note 6, 8, 11, 13).

          In line 1, varying the cliché “gilding the lily,” Will imagines plucking a lily for his “subject” to hold while the image is caught—as in a glass (5), analogous to the poem itself. Such decoration is foolish because the muse’s countenance is perfection (see 3, 7, 12). Q’s laies (4), rhyming with face (5), means verse stories and frilly decoration—maybe a ruff. To add “color” (3) by adding “a lily” is itself a sly paradox. The doomed lily foils the friend’s fixed (3) and constant (7) beauty, which is timeless (5-8), equal to Truth (3), “by all above” (12), and authoritative as judge of one’s life or verse (14). “Greet” (4) and the implied drama of meeting (11-14) suggest Will’s “return” (11) to the muse for evaluation while punning bawdily (in “greet”) on “assault” (OED), triggering the pun “choler” (3). Another punning overlay depicts a “greeting ‘with malaise’” (see 4).

          Words and puns about writing include “gentle numbers”; “time” (meter); “idly S. penned”; “process”; “of hand, of foot” (cf. “written, metrical”); “hymn”; “travel” (cf. “foot”); “return” (cf. “refrain,” “verse” as “turn”); and “shames and praises” (cf. “bad and good poems," diatribes and encomia, Runes and Sonnets). “Miniature is subdivided” (13) puns about Will’s runic method.

          Line 1 jokes about a “lily ‘I’”—suggesting awhite phallus—and masturbation, and other bawdy puns proliferate: e.g., “genital” (2), “kneads” (3), “lays” (4), “augers” (9), “‘I’ muffed” (10), “Lick him” (11), “know,” “pee raises” and “from your tongue” (14). A preoccupation with body parts, most explicit in 8, is also clear in “hand,” “collar,” “face,” and “tongue”; in the related words “greet,” “appears,” “seen,” “mock,” “say,” “lick,” “Ask and see,” “know,” and “shames and praises”; and in the various plays on “eyes,” “‘I’s,” and “awls.” “Brow,” “sage,” and “fame” are adjacent end elements (8-10), and hand / face / brow / tongue are all end words.

          Putting “foot” in a catalog of features of a “face” (8, see 5) is one small joke here.


Comments: 104B

          The openings to 104A and 104B work much the same way: In his second line, the poet expresses frustration at what he’s just written, overly precious and effete. The opener above may feel more like a real clichéd line of verse than 104A.1 does. Since fragrance is less concrete than visual imagery, the “lily” line seems sharper. Line 104B.1 plays differently against hints about visual imagery (e.g., 3, 5ff.) and taste (see 14). And stol’n offers a variant parallel to condemnèd in 104A because both words suggest criminality.

          One run-on pun generated here at 1-2 in the B variant is “…rammed, stolen, thy hairy end, genital, numb arse Tommy subtly spanned (spent).” Such wit, as usual, seems likely to be aimed at Thomas Thorpe, the T.T. of Q’s frontmatter, Will’s printing agent and (of necessity, given what the Runes belatedly discover to us) his close collaborator in executing the printed details of Q.

Sample Puns

104A

          1) Th’ Lyly icon damned 40; T’ heal, I lick on damned farty end; T’ hell I liken damned, swarthy Anne; dimmed is O radiant
          1-2) …or thy engine genital; Tail I lick on, dim, Nate’s earthy, handy, end

104B

          1) Handy butt soft Major rammed; Anne débuted, Sue summery roamed, fiddling there; Anne-debit’s awesome; Aye Nate, butt soft, m’ Harry, our homme, had stolen
          1-2)
See note above in Comments.

104A and 104B

          2) Engine tilling you may be, Arse Tommy; John, “genitaling” homme, be arsed; foe-idol ye’ve penned
          3) Ruth and Ed snuggle; Ruth kneads knuckle, our witty ass, colors I X’d; T’ Ruth, Nate’s knuckle—whore, why this choler sexed?
          3-4) white is color of ex-twin [cf. Hamnet], away
          4) W.H., anew eye Swan; W., Hen, aye weighs; when highway is wan, degraded, witty m’ lay is (lies, malaise)
          4-5) T.T., agree to it: White Himalayas, Lo, Kenya ugly offended Harry; I, too, eye Emilia’s loo, keen your glass, fiend
          5) Loo-kin, why urge laughing? “Why urge lass-end t’ Harry?” a peer says aye; lass-end hairy, ape-ear is, aye saucy
          5-6) t’ hairy ape Paris’s ass eye neighbor; Saint Harry appears, a face in peer’s asses; handy, rape arras as a scene process seized his ass
          6) John pierces oft his ass on showy fin (finis, finesse); In th’ row, see Eve oft hiss Avon’s Evesham
          6-7) the sea-son is heavy fiend still (fiend’s till, cunt standing, a wan, drowsy excellence); In process of this Avon (the season), is Evesham still constant?
          7) eye known dross, ex-Helen see; Sty-lesson is t’ Anne, to know Andrewes
          7-8) T’ know Andrewes’ sex, see Lance’s hands
          8) Offend; Off-hand, devout evil I piss aye; foot oft “lippofies” B-row; Oft Anne doffed, evil “I” pisses brown
          8-9) Brown in death is a dog you re-smock, Harry; Eve Berowne did hiss, a dagger smocked, her own;
          9) get Hero wine, peers
          9-10) I James teach desire, thievery; O, neighbor, sage, I mew
        10) “I” muffed itched aye—sour thievery of Amy; I moustache desire [see Rune 103.9-10]
        10-11) fair the weary Sammy, lick him; “I” muffed, each day fair—the very simile came t’ Hat.; Fair, the very family I came to
        11) T.T. rules, ire t’ earn (our turn); Like Ham[n]et (Hamlet), Hat-er-way veils eye (“I”) red—you rune again; aye red your neige
        11-12) turn, eye Janus, cunts eye in Dis t’ range; eye nascence end
        11-13) eye redder niche, Annie’s cunt see, Anne dies, staring jelly (her angle ye be), butt, bile, a boned awl moist thence, my Annie-tower is subdued
        12-13) You Tybalt eye, bound, awl moist; Angel Libbie you type, while a bundle moist, th’ end see miniature, eye ass subdued; O vandal must then seem whiny to your eyes; a Leben dull
        13) Anne dull, muffed hen see; thin, see miniatures subdivided; awl moist, T.T., Hen. see; seamy nature is subdued; eye Sue be divided; miniature Isis you bed; aye in Ptolemy’s titty Hen see ; aye in Ptolemy’s tidy hand see miniature Isis
        14) Two gnomes, Ham. S., Anne—the pair of S’s from your tongue; Ham’s hand appears; F-row, merd own, G; F-row, merd on G; Token owe, miss, amazing dipper eye; sauces of Rome you re-tongue; “Paris is fair homme,” you read; To know Wm.’y Sh., eye missing débris; ass-sorrow, my hard-on; eye Cicero, Merton jay


Acrostic Wit

104A

          The downward acrostic codeline—TITWLISOAILAAT—suggests such readings as these: “Teat (Titty, Tide) Willy soilèd,” “Tide Willy’s oiled (…soilèd, sailèd),” “Title: Isolde,” “Title is old (I sold),” “Tight Willy ass oiled (soil ate),” “Teat Willy S. oiled,” “Teat will ‘I’s’ elate,” “Teat eye, [pur]sue—a lady,” and “Tie to Eliza eye, lady.”

          The upward codelineTAALIAOS I LWT IT—can be decoded, e.g., to read, “Tally-ho’s eluded (alluded, elated, elided, I luted, ill-witted, ill-wedded, saluted),” “To a louse ill-wedded (ill, wet-eyed; ill-witted),” “T’ Eliza, low teat ( loo tidy),” “Tea Eliza loaded (eluded),” “Ta[ke] Eliza, ill-witted,” “Tale (Tail, Tally) isolated,” and “Tale, eisell-witted.”

104B

          The downward codelineAIT WL ISOAILAAT—varies by one letter from that in 104A, creating a beginning and ending that seems to pun on 8/ate, and yielding such readings as these samples: “At will I saw a lady,” “At will, eye Sue, a lady,” “I eyed Will, I saw a laddie [lady],” “Eight [readers] ‘Will’ isolate,” “‘I’d’ [Endowed] Will isolate,” “8 [inches], Willy soiled,” “8 will aye so elate,” “8 will ass-O [asshole] elate,” “Aid will I: Sue ailed,” “Ate Willy, Sue ailed,” “Aid Willy S., ‘O’ allay, 8 [elate],” “8, 5, 5, 50 I saw, eye 1, 50, 8,” and “Ate Willy ass while 8….”

         The upward reverse—TAALI AOS I LWT IA—suggests, e.g., “Tail eye, ass, eye loo t’ eye aye,” “Tally-ho’s elude eye aye,” “Tail ease I, lewd eye [‘I’] eye,” “Tail [Tale] easy, lewd, I eye [eye aye],” “Tale, easy lute eye aye,” “Tail—easy, lewd—eye aye [I ‘I’],” “T’ alias ‘Ill Wit’ hie aye,” “T’ Elias allude I aye,” and “T’Alice (alias, alleys, allies) allude I aye.”

         As usual, the 104A and 104B acrostic variants both house the potential for hairpin readings, in both down/up and up/down forms.

             
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